Synod calls for allowing married men as Catholic priests in Amazon area

(Photo: © Peter Kenny)Nun with Brazilian flag at St. Peter's in Rome.

Amazon region bishops have made a call for married men to become priests in the Catholic Church to help reach their communities with Christian teachings.

Soon after a synod which ended Oct. 27, Pope Francis in a homily urged openness to new ways "for the proclamation of the Gospel."

But the recent Vatican meeting drew the ire of traditionalists with accusations about idolatry highlighted after some Amazon art carvings were seized from a church near the Vatican and then cast into Rome's Tiber River.

The use of the carvings disappointed some Brazilian Catholics, Rafael Tavares, editor-in-chief of ACI Digital who covers Catholic news in Brazil told EWTN.

A possible put down to critics who fear Pope Francis is weakening the Catholic Church's foundations came from the pontiff who cautioned the faithful against entering the "swampy waters of ideologies," the Associated Press reported after his Oct. 27 mass.

The issue of married priests seemed to play a lesser role in church media after the uproar ensued about statues thrown into the Tiber River on Oct. 21.

The statue stunt was publicised on YouTube with trenchant accusations hurled about the direction of the church by militant ultra-conservative Catholics to justify it.


The four-minute video released on YouTube showed two men entering the church, leaving with the statues, and then throwing them off a nearby bridge.

Catholic News Agency on Oct. 25 reported the Pope as saying the statues had been displayed in the church "without idolatrous intentions."

Monsignor Charles Pope, however, wrote in the (U.S.) National Catholic Register: "After weeks of silence we are told by the Pope that this was not idolatry and there was no idolatrous intention.

"But then why did people, including priests, prostrate before it? Why was the statue carried in procession into churches like St. Peter's Basilica and placed before altars at Santa Maria in Traspontina?"

Following the incident, Paolo Ruffini, the head of Vatican communications, repeated that the image resents "life, fertility, mother earth."

Ruffini said the incident "seems to me to contradict the gesture of dialogue" that the synod should represent.


The call for married men to become priests in the Amazon region stirred criticism from some of the faithful as a dilution of tradition in the Catholic Church which does not in most circumstances allow for married priests in churches under the jurisdiction of Rome.

Celibacy is a discipline and not a doctrine that has been the norm for much of the Catholic Church for nearly 1,000 years, so being opposed to the allowing of married priests on "traditional" grounds depends on the traditions of a more modern era in the Church.

The Vatican allows married men to serve as priests in Eastern rite churches in countries such as Ethiopia, Lebanon and Ukraine. It has also allowed married Anglican priests to remain as priests when they join the Roman Catholic Church.

Francis' Oct. 27 Sunday mass in St. Peter's Basilica had concluded a weeks-long Vatican meeting on the special needs of Catholics in that South American region, and Francis thanked the bishops for their candor.

(REUTERS/Tony Gentile)A photo of Pope Francis.

The meeting for the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region approved a document calling for the ordination of married men as priests and for women to be considered for diaconal ordination, Catholic News Agency reported.

The 33-page document, approved Oct. 26, came after the three-week meeting in Rome by the synod's 181 voting members from indigenous communities, religious orders, lay groups and charities.

The document presented the assembly's conclusions on topics ranging from environmentalism, inculturation in the church, and the human rights of indigenous communities facing economic, environmental, and cultural exploitation.

Its most "likely controversial item" according to CNA is the call by the synod fathers for the ordination of proven married men, in the face of an acute shortage of priests in many parts of the region.

"Many of the ecclesial communities of the Amazonian territory have enormous difficulties in accessing the Eucharist," the document says, while noting that some communities go for months, even years between visits from a priest.

Synod participants had said that they "appreciate celibacy as a gift of God to the extent that this gift enables the missionary disciple, ordained to the priesthood, to dedicate himself fully to the service of the Holy People of God."

The bishops concluded, however, "legitimate diversity does not harm the communion and unity of the Church but expresses and serves it."


Pope wrote in the National Catholic Register, "In the final document of the synod are included proposals for married priests on a wide scale and women 'deacons.' The Church is currently deeply divided and, I would argue, on the brink of schism, if the Pope includes such proposals in his apostolic exhortation and plan."

After the controversial statues were thrown into Rome's Tiber River, Pope Francis issued an apology during a Friday session of the special synod.

Ultra-conservative militant Taylor Marshall had lambasted the Amazon Synod when he wrote it is "proof that Catholic Church has been infiltrated from within."

Marhall was once a priest in the U.S. Episcopal Church and converted to Catholicism. He describes himself as a "traditional Catholic" who espouses that the church has a false agenda driven by Satan.

"It is an agenda to replace the supernatural religion of the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ with the natural religion of humanism and globalism," a refrain of some Pentecostals and Evangelicals who form a conservative ideological base in the United States.

He announced, "with great joy" that the "idols" that "had polluted" the church had "been destroyed." 

John L. Allen Jr. wrote in Crux, however, "It's probably telling that almost no one in the Western media made much of an effort to go ask the indigenous peoples themselves what the image represents."

Pope Francis, who is Bishop of Rome said, "As bishop of this diocese, I ask forgiveness from those who have been offended by this gesture."

Francis also reported that the statues had been recovered from the river, were not damaged, and were in the offices of the head of Italy's national police.

In the caption beneath one of the video's of the statues being removed, reported by CNA, it said the action was taken "for only one reason:

"Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, his blessed Mother, and everybody who follows Christ, are being attacked by members of our own Church. We do not accept this! We do not longer stay silent! We start to act NOW!"

"Because we love humanity, we cannot accept that people of a certain region should not get baptized and therefore are being denied entrance into heaven," the caption continued.

"It is our duty to follow the words of God like our holy Mother did. There is no second way of salvation. Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat!"

The statues were identical carved images of a naked pregnant Amazonian woman and had been displayed in the Carmelite church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, close to the Vatican.

They had been used in several events taking place during the Oct. 6-27 synod.

By demanding respect for the cultures of indigenous peoples, Pope Francis was not promoting pantheism, but, tapping into his Jesuit roots, urging respect for a worldview that sees God in all things, Catholic News Service reported.

"Our Christian faith and the church teach us to seek and to find God in all things, as St. Ignatius says in the Spiritual Exercises. There is no pantheism in this," Jesuit priest Adelson Araujo dos Santos, a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University's Institute of Spirituality in Rome, told CNS.

"Pantheism means to believe that a tree is a god, the sun is a god," said Moema Maria Marques de Miranda, a lay Franciscan who is an observer at the synod.

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